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Will Florida Postpone Congressional Elections Because of Gerrymandering?

Will Florida Postpone Congressional Elections Because of Gerrymandering?

Although gerrymandering (aka one of the most significant threats to American democracy) has only become more blatant in recent years, the act of drawing partisan congressional lines has finally suffered a major blowback. After examining how the Florida GOP crafted arbitrary district borders to allow for more conservative seats in the House of Representatives, Judge Terry Lewis declared the lines unconstitutional…and he may be willing to delay the November election in some Florida districts to better protect democracy.

It may seem counterintuitive to postpone an election to protect democracy, but if the elections were to go on as planned, Republicans would maintain a distinct advantage in picking up seats for the upcoming 114th United States Congress. Despite Democrats winning Florida’s vote in the 2012 presidential election, they lost 17 of the 27 congressional seats, due in large part to the way district lines had been redrawn.

At present, Florida Republicans say they won’t contest Judge Lewis’s ruling, but they would like to see the November election carry on as planned. In other words, yes, they were caught cheating, but they would like to reap the benefits of that underhandedness at least once more before returning to a more fair system.

Alas, Florida Republicans might get their way. Given the election is just three months away, that’s hardly enough time to redraw districts and sort out all of the details for an election of this scale.

“Under the circumstances before me, I believe that the law requires that I at least consider the possibility [of postponing the election],” Judge Lewis said. Some wonder whether this is an empty threat, although there is a bit of precedent for a move like this. In 1982, Georgia had two of its congressional races postponed when district lines were found to contradict the Voting Rights Act.

Though both parties participate in gerrymandering, the Republicans have taken a clear advantage in this unethical game. While Democrats have sole control of drawing district lines in 6 states accounting for 44 districts, Republicans have 18 states under lockdown comprised of 210 districts.

As the Washington Post points out, the Supreme Court has essentially allowed rampant gerrymandering to persist due to inaction. A decade ago, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that since it was difficult for the court to decide when partisanship becomes unconstitutional, it should not try to enforce these matters.

However, the Supreme Court will get a second chance to tackle redistricting in the upcoming months when it hears Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v Alabama. After state legislators purposely consolidated areas with black democrats into the same districts in the state thereby creating more safe seats for Republicans, Democrats have decided to raise the issue with the nation’s highest court again.

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82 comments

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12:33PM PDT on Aug 20, 2014

VOTE BLUE, the life you save may be your own...

9:06PM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

It's pretty sad and pathetic that the Republican Party has to resort to gerrymandering and voter suppression, aka cheating, in order to win elections. Just signs that they are a dying party, and their days are numbered. However, sending anything to the conservative, right wing-led Supreme Court won't help matters. That's what needs to get changed.

6:03AM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

Robert H.,
Yes, Florida is well out of the norm. So are a number of other states. Christopher Ingraham shows his analysis of the most gerrymandered states:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/

John Sides challenges the theory that gerrymandering is the most significant threat to democracy. Regardless of party affiliation, a district's Congressman will not be representative of their district.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/03/gerrymandering-is-not-whats-wrong-with-american-politics/

5:14AM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

Whille I agree with part of what you are saying, Dan, this was apparently well out of the normal amount and effort for this practice.

4:21AM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

Kamia T.,
I agree. Those in power tend to do whatever is necessary to stay in power. Gerrymandering districts to reach that goal that been persistent since Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry redistricted his state to favor the Democratic party. IT has been used by each party for their own benefit since. Occasionally, both parties collude to draw boundaries that benefit the incumbents in each party.
Florida is hardly the first to use this practice to pack minorities into as few districts as possible. North Carolina has a much longer and pervasive history of such tactics. During reconstruction, the Democrats packed as many black voters as possible into a single district to minimize the effect of Black Republican voters. This practice of the white Dixiecrats continued to depress black voters until the 1980s. In the 90s, NC drew its famous I-85 district, in order to increase black representation in Congress. The focus lately has been centered on Republicans only because thay have embraced a practice that was prevalent among Democrats. Now, both parties are using this practice to keep incumbents in power. Hence, the low turnover each election year.

11:49AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

One, I'm shocked that the Florida GOP would admit their chicanery. And that after being caught cheating that they shouldn't be punished and be allowed to reap their ill gotten gains? And be given more time to work out more deviltry? So I can steal a car and because of the time it will take to get it back to its owner I be allowed to continue to drive it and not be prosecuted for it. Amazing. Isn't American politics wonderful.
And another shocker. Scalia doesn't believe that massive corruption in manipulating the vote and democracy should be against the law. Wow, I never saw that coming. Or the semi-tractor trailer coming at me while standing in the middle lane on the I-5 in Los Angeles. What corruption? What ideology? Nothing to see here.

8:26AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

NEVER vote for Republicans!

vegnik.wix.com/nogop

The racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-union, anti-immigrant, anti-Social Security GOP is a dead end.

3:50AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

Thank you.

1:54AM PDT on Aug 7, 2014

What is gerrymandering?

7:17PM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

Whatever it takes to counteract the right-wing attempt to establish a one-party corporate controlled fascist dictatorship in the US. We have already been led much too far down that road as it is.

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